Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A white flag is an international sign of either surrender, or truce, i.e., of peaceful intent, typically in time of war. Soldiers carrying or waving a white flag are not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire. A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, and an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate.
Persons carrying a white flag are expected to maintain neutrality, and may not engage in warlike acts. Legend states that viking Erik the Red started this tradition by using white shields as a means of surrender. The improper use of a white flag is a forbidden rules of war and constitutes a war crime of perfidy . There were several reports of insurgent fighters using white flags as a ruse to approach and attack U.S. and Coalition forces during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003 however the U.S. forces are also suspected to have broken the rules of war several times during the conflict.
The royal standard of France was once a plain white flag (to which a fleur-de-lys was later added, and which was replaced by the Tricolor). An unadorned white flag was also the standard of the Stewards of Gondor in the Middle-earth legendarium of author J.R.R. Tolkien. In Buddhist countries, white is the colour of mourning, so a white flag is used where other cultures might fly a black flag.
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